Williams Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe appears to have departed the team following the troubled launch of their 2019 car which ended pre-season testing in Barcelona slowest of all, having missed the opening two and half days of running at the Circuit de Catalunya.
A short statement from the team on Wednesday evening said that Lowe was ‘taking a leave of absence for personal reasons’ and the team declined to comment further when asked for further clarification on his future.
Lowe, who joined Williams for a second spell in 2017 after overseeing three consecutive constructors’ championship wins with Mercedes, was already under pressure heading into this season after the team finished bottom of last year’s championship for the first time in their history.
After missing the opening two and half days’ running in Barcelona, Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams said she was “embarrassed” that the team had failed to finish their 2019 car on time but insisted a full debrief into the cause had not yet been carried out.
Paddy Lowe has been placed on leave by the @WilliamsRacing team. Lowe insisted he was ignoring speculation regarding his future when asked in Barcelona, but as CTO he may well have had little option but to stand down following the team's troubled FW42 car launch. #F1 #PaddyLowe — Rob Watts (@robwattsf1) March 6, 2019
Speculation regarding Lowe’s future grew further when it became clear that Williams were again struggling for pace with their new car, however, the 56-year-old refuted suggestions his job was on the line, insisting he had “not paid attention” to the media speculation.
But now, following Williams’ statement, it is expected that Lowe will not return to the team and confirmation of his departure will follow.
Lowe’s exit will be another blow for Williams who lost significant sponsor at the end of last season following Lance Stroll’s move to the newly branded Racing Point team, as well as the loss of title sponsor Martini who opted not to renew their contract.
The season opener in Melbourne is now less than two weeks away and it appears likely to be a challenging weekend for Williams after race driver Robert Kubica suggested he was only “20% prepared” for the start of the season following the car’s late launch.